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Calvin Maples Cureton (1874-1940)

Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1921-1940

Calvin Maples Cureton was born September 1, 1874, near Walnut Springs in Bosque County, Texas, where his father was a successful rancher. His mother died when he was five years old, and he was raised by his father and grandparents. He attended rural one-room schools and learned to love the out-of-doors growing up on his father's cattle ranch. He attended Central College in Walnut Springs for four years and then worked for his father beginning in 1889.

Cureton attended the University of Virginia from 1892 to 1893 and then returned to Texas, his education cut short by the economic depression that began that year. Back in Texas, he became involved in state politics and ran a monthly magazine, the Southern Arena, with his brother. He also studied law privately, and was admitted to the bar in 1897. He began his law practice that year in Meridian. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Cureton enlisted as a private in the Third Texas Volunteer Infantry. He was married in 1901; the couple had no children.

Cureton began his long career as a public servant when he was elected to represent Bosque County in the Texas Legislature from 1909 to 1912. He co-authored Banking Laws of Texas, published in 1912. He served as first assistant Texas attorney general in 1913 and was elected Texas attorney general in 1918. He was reelected in 1920 and held the post until December 1921, when Gov. Pat Neff appointed him chief justice of the Texas supreme court following the resignation of Nelson Phillips. He was subsequently elected to the position four times beginning in 1922, and served nineteen years as chief justice. While on the bench he wrote many opinions concerning water and irrigation rights and development of natural resources, and he was known for his even temper and courtesy. At the time of his death he was the longest-serving chief justice in the history of the Texas Supreme Court.

Cureton died in Austin on April 8, 1940, of a heart attack. His body lay in state in the supreme court room for two hours the following day. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

Notable opinions

His opinion in Travellers Insurance Co. v. Marshall (124 Texas reports 45) was described as "comprehensive, scholarly, and fearless."


In Memoriam, 135 Texas reports 635 (1941).

Hawkins, Walace. Cureton of the Bosque, 3 Texas Bar Journal 188 (May, 1940).

Judge Cureton Served Longest, 3 Texas Bar Journal 190 (May, 1940).

Pool, William C. Cureton, Calvin Maples, Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001).

Extended bibliography

1 The Historical Encyclopedia of Texas 207. Ellis Arthur Davis, ed. (Revised ed.,Texas Historical Society, 1936).

Speer, Ocie. Texas Jurists 114 (Austin, Texas: the author, 1936).

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 53, page 413
Volume 56, page 445
Volume 60, page 12, 18
Volume 65, page 189
Volume 68, page 478

Additional information available in Texas Bar Journal as follow:
Volume 1, page 9
Volume 3, page 188, 190
Volume 4, page 11

Final Rites for Justice Cureton This Afternoon, Austin American, Apr. 9, 1940.

In Memoriam, 135 Texas reports 635 (1941).